Color Composition : The Relationship of Layouts and Backgrounds to Animation From am Animator's Viewpoint

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From the collection of Hans Perk at A. Film L.A. and reprinted here with his permission.

CLASS ON
COLOR COMPOSITION
SESSION HELD: WEDNESDAY JULY 15, 1936
INSTRUCTOR: PHIL DIKE
GUEST SPEAKER: LES CLARK
TOPIC THE RELATIONSHIP OF LAYOUTS
AND BACKGROUNDS TO ANIMATION
FROM AN ANIMATOR'S VIEWPOINT

LES:

My comments tonight will deal only with those things I have observed and felt from an animator's viewpoint.

The most important point, and one I should wish to stress, is that a closer working relationship should exist among the men, coordinating the efforts of the animators, the layout men, and the background men. Such a relationship existed at one time, but it seems gradually to have been lost over a period of years. It is to be hoped that it may be revived.

Looking back to the early stages of the development of backgrounds, we can see there have been vast improvements, progressive rather than retrogressive in nature. In the early period, simplicity was the keynote. The backgrounds expressed only the locale or setting in which the action took place. In most instances these settings were only suggestions, and were kept very subdued, using more or less flat tones in a black and white wash. The main object was to make the action stand out - not to complicate it with elaborate backgrounds. In fact, some backgrounds consisted of merely a line for the horizon and a tree in the foreground.

During this early period the animator was in closer touch, not only with backgrounds, but with layouts as well. He laid out his own backgrounds and model drawings; in some instances the animator laid out an entire picture, and then animated besides. The backgrounds, of course, were simpler; but they were workable, using only necessary detail and suiting the animation of that time. In other words, animation was the primary concern - the backgrounds were secondary.

Cutouts were used in the early days to enhance the background. Later overlays and underlays were introduced to give more depth to the backgrounds. From that we developed to overlays on sliding cells passing in front of action to add depth. [...]